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  (Source: Caffex)
Drowsy drivers will get a bit of assistance, thanks to Ford's high-tech safety initiatives

Ford Motor Comp. (F) is going hard at safeguarding its drivers -- especially the drowsy ones.  

I. Lane Keeping Tech is the Drowsy Driver's Friend

On road tiredness is a huge problem.  A recent study [PDF] by the America Automobile Association's (AAA) Foundation for Highway Safety revealed 60 percent of adults admitted to driving while drowsy, and a shocking 40 percent admit to falling asleep behind the wheel.  Ford points to another recent study by AAA, which indicated that drowsiness was estimated to cause 17 percent of fatal crashes.

Drowsy drivers will often crash when they swerve out of their lane.  To that end, Ford is deploying a trio of technologies to help avoid collisions which occur when drowsy or distracted drivers drift out of their lane.

The new "lane keeping" technology -- which will first be available on the 2012 Ford Explorer early next year -- will automatically keep the car in your lane, assuming the lane is well marked and you don't have your turn signal on.

The system takes into account many variables including vehicle speed, whether the vehicle is rounding a bend, etc.  Using a camera mounted behind the rear view mirror, Ford's system peers at the lane markers and applies steering torque to keep the car within a lane.  

Lane keeping torque

The driver will feel the adjustments as a gentle tug on the steering wheel as the torque is applied (similar to how you can "feel" the gas pedal adjust in many cars, when in cruise control).  The driver can override the system at any time by hard braking, rapid acceleration, a turn indicator, or counter-steering.

Ford calls this comprehensive technology its "Lane Keeping System".

II. Time for Some Coffee, Says the Car

The system also warns the driver first with a yellow warning popup in the instrument cluster LCD screen accompanied by a brief chime.  If the vehicle detects continued lane departure, it will sound a more alarming chime and display a red popup.  

Ford also has devised a somewhat humorous (albeit on a serious topic) warning, which tells the driver when to "get coffee".  A gauge monitors driver tiredness by watching the driver's movements on the road for signs of distraction or fatigue.  As those signs increasingly show up, a slider will go from a "driving wheel" icon to a "coffee cup" icon.  When the coffee cup icon is reached, drivers are advised to find a place to pull over, either to rest or to caffeinate themselves.

Driver alert

This part of the package is labelled the "Driver Alert System".

The final piece of the package is the "Lane Keeping Alert".  This alert offers yet another warning to drowsy/distracted drivers who are drifting out of their lane.  When it detects drift, it vibrates the wheel, warning the driver.

Via the vehicle's built in menu system, drivers can turn off certain parts of the system (e.g. turn off Lane Keeping and set their system to alert only).  

Warning level

This helps drivers select the level of intervention they feel most comfortable with -- from warnings, to actual torque application.

III. Ford Thinks Its Solution is the Best in the Industry

Ford Global Product Development Vice President of Engineering, Raj Nair lauds the new system, stating, "The Explorer is loaded with new innovations, including this new lane keeping technology that helps drivers stay in control of their vehicle if they drift out of their lane or show signs of drowsiness."

He told us during the presentation that while some luxury brands like Lexus (Toyota Motor Comp.'s (TYO:7203) luxury brand) and Infiniti (Nissan Motor Comp., Ltd.'s (TYO:7201) luxury line) have similar features, that Ford believes its system to be an industry first for an "industry first" for a standard segment vehicle.  

Further, Mr. Nair says that the system's camera is more discrete versus rival's designs, which place the camera in positions that blocks part of the road view.  
Lane keeping camera

And he says that Ford's tested its system versus its competitors and worked to offer better screening of intentional lane departures versus unintentional ones.

IV. Lane Keeping Tech Does have Its Limits

The system is not without its limits.  If the system can't see the lane markers, it turns itself off temporarily.  This could occur in bad weather -- where visibility is very poor (e.g. a blizzard); on poorly maintained highways, where the lane markers have eroded; or on country highways where it's just dirt and no lane markers.

[Source: Dee Brestin Blog]

And obviously driver-assist features make some car enthusiasts a bit squeamish.  Some would rather be the only source of input to their vehicle.  However, if these kinds of intelligent solutions can save lives, it's hard for even car-heads to argue with them.  After all, not every driver is an enthusiast driving a sporty manual.

And of course the feature will be an option, which can be turned on and off, so drivers can decide for themselves, whether they want to purchase this extra safety measure and how exactly they want to use it.

[All images are courtesy of Ford, except for the drowsy driver picture and blizzard picture.]

Source: Ford

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Not trying to be a grammar nazi
By inighthawki on 10/28/2011 12:22:36 PM , Rating: 2
Just trying to be polite so you can correct it:

If the system can't see the lane markers, it urns itself

right under section IV should be "turns", not "urns" :P

By JasonMick on 10/28/2011 1:39:06 PM , Rating: 2
Just trying to be polite so you can correct it:

If the system can't see the lane markers, it urns itself

right under section IV should be "turns", not "urns" :P

Got it... it's not storing pickles, you are correct. :)

By ClownPuncher on 10/28/2011 1:39:20 PM , Rating: 5
Maybe you'll end up in an urn if you don't pay attention while driving!

I can see it now --
By Dr of crap on 10/28/2011 1:00:15 PM , Rating: 1
In the future if the car detects that your not fully with it and are drifting out of the lane, the car will take over control of the car --

Car - I have taken over since you have shown you are in control yourself.

Driver ( after being startled )- Hal can I please get contol back? I need to stop for a bite to eat and drink.

Car - I can't comply with that request

Driver - Hal I need to have control back

Car - I have full tank and you don't need a bathroom break
Sit back and rest. Leave the driving to me.

RE: I can see it now --
By Mitch101 on 10/28/2011 1:11:38 PM , Rating: 2
I need one that can fix stupid.

Your changing lanes let me put on the turn signal as I see your too busy and cheap to purchase a hands free headset while drinking your coffee. Might I suggest leaving more room to change lanes in the future as the guy behind you looks very large, muscular, and capable of removing your body parts should to take the paint off his bumper. You should also be aware that Im a muscle car/bmw/truck and in no way does that increase the physical capabilities of you as a driver. I should remind you your still a wimpy person despite driving a Ford F350. You bench has not increased since you got behind the wheel.

The sign says yield not speed up and force your way into the only spot not capable of fitting.

Attention Driver the vehicle is still in motion please put your makeup on another time.

RE: I can see it now --
By JasonMick on 10/28/2011 1:46:07 PM , Rating: 2
Reminds me of Will Smith in iRobot, when he has to work to try to override his Audi so it doesn't let the robots kill him. :)

Sometimes manual control is nice.

At least Ford had the common sense to:
a) Make this an option.
b) Allow the user to disable some (or all) of the features.

If the device can prevent some loser from driving into me on the highway on accident, and they're willing to accept the assistance, that's a good thing in my mind.

To be honest if I had a long commute in some capacity (which I don't) I'd consider ponying up for the option if I was buying a new vehicle.

My brother drives 5.5 hours to see his fiancee every couple weeks, and he typically heads out at like 1 or 2 am since he's a nurse. He drinks a LOT of coffee, and will pull over and rest if he has to (or so he says), but something like this would be a good help in a case like that.

That's my perspective, fwiw.

By kaborka on 10/28/2011 12:32:02 PM , Rating: 2
... s/b "discreet"

RE: discrete
By JasonMick on 10/28/2011 1:38:31 PM , Rating: 2
Thank you, it's fixed. :)

Sounds better...
By Schrag4 on 10/28/2011 2:12:00 PM , Rating: 2
I like that you have the option to employ any, all, or none of these features. I probably wouldn't turn on the "automatically drive my car off a cliff" feature, but it wouldn't hurt to have the steering wheel vibrate if it thinks I'm leaving my lane. Kinda like rumble strips on every road where lanes are painted. And if I get sick of it I can always turn it off.

By mike8675309 on 10/29/2011 12:24:30 AM , Rating: 2
What Ford is doing falls under the general umbrella of Driver Assistive Systems. The University of Minnesota has a Intelligent Vehicles Lab and they recently have implemented a system to allow Public Transit Buses to navigate along the roadway shoulders at speed, during heavy traffic. They use a system of precision mapping of routes, laser scanners, GPS, heads up displays and collision avoidance. This allows them to work around the issues of bad weather obscuring the roadway.

Downside to highly accurate systems is that they need reliable and detailed geospacial data for the route being traveled. Easy for bus routes, or snow plow routes. Not so easy for folks just driving around.

this isn't news
By supamark on 10/28/11, Rating: -1
RE: this isn't news
By supamark on 10/28/11, Rating: -1
RE: this isn't news
By cjohnson2136 on 10/28/2011 12:28:34 PM , Rating: 3
or maybe that no one really cares what you have to say

RE: this isn't news
By Brandon Hill on 10/28/2011 12:33:25 PM , Rating: 5
Actually, Ford had a press event yesterday and invited tech/auto publications (just as Intel invited us to IDF this year). They were discussing their upcoming technology for automobiles.

We cover tech, we cover automobiles... DUH.

RE: this isn't news
By supamark on 10/28/11, Rating: -1
RE: this isn't news
By JasonMick on 10/28/2011 1:24:49 PM , Rating: 4
and it is incredibly common for companies to pay to have their ads run as news stories. happens all the time on local news, cable news, news websites, magazines, newspapers, etc. considering that daily tech generates very little original content, I'm sure it happens here too.

DailyTech and its employees absolutely do not accept money from Ford.

Any DailyTech employee who did that would be terminated.

Please read our ethics statement and educate yourself.

If you don't want to read news stories about a particular company, technology, product, etc., here's a suggestion. DON'T READ THEM.

DailyTech is working hard to try to give unique first-hand coverage and analysis on emerging technologies every day. If you don't like some particular aspect of the coverage or find an error, by all means share. But attacking our site and disrupting other readers is just rude and offensive.

I consider this your warning and refer you to our Faq:
Occasionally we will completely ban a user or IP block from DailyTech. You can assure yourself a ban by:
* Harassing other users or employees

Please learn some manners and think before commenting.

RE: this isn't news
By supamark on 10/28/11, Rating: -1
RE: this isn't news
By Spuke on 10/28/2011 3:49:08 PM , Rating: 3
also, if you think this is harrassment you need a dictionary.
Like you would actually agree that your were harassing someone. That's funny!

RE: this isn't news
By DigitalFreak on 10/28/2011 3:07:46 PM , Rating: 2
that someone cares enough to continually downrate these comments says that I've hit a nerve.

More likely people are just tired of your whining.

RE: this isn't news
By drycrust3 on 10/28/2011 2:34:20 PM , Rating: 1
I would disagree because in an advertisement the advertiser has editorial control, but in a press release they don't. For all Ford knew someone might slate them on matters unrelated to the technical merits of their product (as you have done). They trust that there are people who are actually interested in the technical merits of their products to make a press release worth while, and that journalists and others may use that information within a broader context, e.g. to assist in articles highlighting the dangers of driving tired.
The really annoying part of your tirade is that you overlook how dangerous tiredness is. As a guide, tiredness is roughly as bad as driving intoxicated, but with added danger. Your body goes into sleep mode in less time than you can blink. The difference is that when you are drunk your judgments and reactions are impaired, but with tiredness they aren't just impaired but that you can suddenly loose the lot. For example, with tiredness you could be one moment driving down the road and then suddenly you wake up to find your car is somewhere in between going across someone's front lawn and going under a truck.

By Flunk on 10/28/11, Rating: -1
RE: Silly
By cjohnson2136 on 10/28/2011 12:21:53 PM , Rating: 2
No it works when you are falling asleep at the wheel and it can see the lines. If you are falling asleep you would still need it :).

Insensitive to caffeine
By Kurz on 10/28/11, Rating: -1
RE: Insensitive to caffeine
By GuinnessKMF on 10/28/2011 3:25:01 PM , Rating: 5
Companies need to stop catering to every whiny niche when they can get the point across with a coffee icon.

"You should get a coffee, but if caffeine doesn't effect you maybe you should go to sleep, but if you're being stalked by Freddy Krueger you should probably keep driving anyway" would take a slightly larger icon.

People like you are why they have to put "Coffee may be hot" on the side of cups.

RE: Insensitive to caffeine
By cjohnson2136 on 10/28/2011 3:46:09 PM , Rating: 4
The point of using a coffee icon is because everyone knows that means. It means you are tired and need some way to perk up while you are driving. It is a symbol which stands for something they are not suggesting to go buy a cup of coffee.

RE: Insensitive to caffeine
By inighthawki on 10/28/2011 4:11:17 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly, the point is not to imply "you should go drink some coffee," but rather that it is a universally understood icon to tell people they are fatigued and require something (coffee/caffeine, sleep, etc) to stay awake.

RE: Insensitive to caffeine
By Solandri on 10/29/2011 1:26:04 AM , Rating: 2
A more universally understood way to tell people they require something to stay awake would be for the system to turn the speaker volume way up and yell at you to WAKE UP!.

RE: Insensitive to caffeine
By GuinnessKMF on 10/29/2011 8:07:40 AM , Rating: 2
This reminds me of Prof. Farnsworth's machine he used to try to wake Lela from her coma.

RE: Insensitive to caffeine
By AnnihilatorX on 10/31/2011 8:01:29 AM , Rating: 2
It's akin to icons for Ladies and Gents may be some silhouette with a dress and trousers respectively. This is not sexist nor imply woman have to wear skirt or dresses. It's just a universally understandable symbol.

RE: Insensitive to caffeine
By gookpwr on 10/28/2011 4:08:38 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe you would be more sensitive to caffine if you got coffee where I get coffee.


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